AUSTIN, Texas -- After years of dealing with a backlog of more than 3,000 DNA kits, hundreds of kits in Austin Police custody were recently found with mold on the outside.
• Of 1,629 cases analyzed, 849 had signs of mold
• 25 of those cases are from 2011 to now
• Majority of them are from the 1990s and early 2000s
On April 25, Signature Sciences, the company that tests DNA kits for APD, found mold on a batch of DNA cases sent to them for testing.
The next day, the department examined its evidence refrigerator and discovered it had a faulty seal.
"What we found in the refrigerator was that there were kits that were in there, evidence that did have mold, that was apparent on the outside of these boxes," said APD Interim Chief Brian Manley.
Of the 1,629 cases that they analyzed, 849 had signs of mold. Only 25 of those cases are from 2011 to now, and a majority of them are from the 1990s and early 2000s.
"What's important is well over 1,000 we have sent from that same refrigerator have been opened and have been processed, and we haven't gotten any reports of mold in those kits," Manley said.
While the lab said the mold did not impact evidence tested so far, The SAFE Alliance worries about the message this situation sends to sexual assault survivors.
"My biggest concern is and always has been about survivors and their ability to feel confident and comfortable seeking services and seeking justice," said Melinda Cantu with The SAFE Alliance.
They say one of the greatest challenges is getting survivors to endure a forensic exam, and this situation could discourage them from doing so.
"Their sense is that there's gonna be some end to it and maybe some resolution to it, and when there's not, that could cause some issues just in terms of healing," said Cantu.
APD has repaired the seals and added a de-humidifier to keep mold from growing. They are currently working with the Texas Forensic Science Commission on determining the best method to remove the mold without damaging the evidence.
"What we're wanting to emphasize is that we are taking an aggressive stance on this, trying to ensure that we handle this as timely and as appropriately as possible," said Manley.
But for those still waiting for justice, it may not feel timely enough.
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